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IT STARTED WITH A CAST, an offering, that didn't get hooked in the willows behind you or the pine tree overhead but instead sailed out above the water and landed near the intended zone, near enough anyway, that something took it. Whether or not a fish was hooked matters little. It was a proposal, and was accepted, drawing you across a threshold of gratification from which you would never fully return.

Stonefly
-- Michal Murri

It's getting dark now so I'm going for it. Through crawling along the bottom of this dark and dreary river, I'm headed for shore, across this riffle, bringing my wings and wishes with me.

I've been here for two years, ya know, "foraging," as they say, on tiny plant matter and other goodies. I wish I was tougher. Or could swim, at least. But I suck at swimming and am therefore only a strong current away from get pulled off these rocks and sent tumbling like Papa across some piscatorial buffet line. I've got a cousin though, Acroneuria californica, or some ridiculous name - I think you call him a Golden Stone - he's carnivorous. Did you know that? Ya, he's what they call predacious. Would eat his own young if given the chance. Kinda like a shark. Even gobbles small fish fry. Did you catch that last part? He's a fly. That eats fish. I'd like to see one of those Diptera Dorks pull that off. Then again, what can you expect from any fly who occupies a branch on the mosquito family tree?

Three, is the magic number
-- Blind Melon

Portrait of a Passionate Trio
On a fishing trip, or a road journey of any kind, really, three people offers the perfect mix. One to drive, one to handle tunes and navigate, and one to sit in back and pass important items up front when necessary.

It only took a few minutes kneeling and staring into the ripples before I spotted a fish. A cutthroat, maybe 10 inches long, darted from behind a rock into the undercut bank. Walking this spread earlier in the afternoon, ranch broker Greg Fay told me that since he began restoring this creek along Montana's Ruby River, the trout have slowly been returning. Fay also introduced me to the ranch manager and the son of the man who owned this creek and its adjoining 800 acres. The son asked that I not use his name. The new owner recently bought this creek and ranch just west of Sheridan, Mont., from Fay who acquired the property from a rancher who'd worked the land since the late 1960s. The former cattle ranch now closer resembles an overgrown parking lot. The creek's banks are collapsed, the riparian corridor is thin and friable and the remaining shrubs and grasses are battered to nothingness. Still, the land hasn't lost its openness, or its golden glow, or its ability to support life. It just needs some help, and Fay, owner of Fay Fly Fishing Properties, is the man for the job.

See them coming, swimming toward you like ducks across the sky at dawn. It's hard for a Northern Rockies trout chaser to fathom: no hatch to match, no current seam to aim for, just you and a couple dozen bonefish headed your direction. Throw it too late and you'll spook 'em. Too early and your fly sinks to the bottom. But time it right and suddenly there you are-light breeze, palm trees and a fish heading straight for Honduras.

Standing thigh-high in the waters of Belize will teach a dedicated western river angler more about our sport's diversity than a thousand bonefish books could ever hope to accomplish. Because the tropics are so not Montana in November. Because a place like Turneffe Flats or Glovers Reef is everything steelhead fishing in springtime isn't. You're warm. You're comfortable. You're wearing shorts. And for once you can leave the "Nobility in Suffering School of Flyfishing" packed away at home with your leech patterns and neoprenes. It's doubtful bonefish will ever replace brown trout on the unspoken scale of our piscatorial caste system. Still, a day on the flats leaves your head as clear as the surrounding sea and you never have to worry about hooking your backcast in the willows.